Our Mission: To boldly go until we are no more!

Thursday, January 31, 2013


We enjoyed our four days at Marina Papagayo: diving Monkey Head Rock ($90.00 pp for two tanks), dining at the Four Seasons and touring the grounds which included an Arnold Palmer golf course and several beaches and pools. The marina had a condo complex with pool, gym, laundry, lounge and reasonably priced restaurant/bar. It was fun to watch some small blue birds scoop a drink on the wing as we chilled in the condo pool at sunset and listening to the howler monkeys in the hills at dusk and dawn. Though expensive, using an agent to do our outward clearance paperwork was painless and we got to enjoy a day at the resort instead of driving around the countryside tracking down officials.

Our new Cedar plug lure with #10 hook was supposed to be skipjack proof according to Rick the sportfish charter skipper at Marina Papagayo. After catching three of these silly tunas within an hour and tossing them all back (barely edible only in cans and raw) we have stopped fishing for a while. Our captain says we have no time to waste in the Gulf of Papagayo, one of the 'gaps' in Central America where tradewinds from the Caribbean funnel into the Pacific. The other major gap winds blow into the Gulf of Tehuantepec where a gale is now developing. We are underway from the Gulf of Papagayo to the the new Marina Chiapas at the SE end of the Gulf of Tehuantepec - about a 500 mile passage. Puerto Chiapas (formerly Puerto Madero) is near the Mexican border with El Salvador and is a port of entry. Here we will wait for a break in the T-pecker winds to cross the 250 mile Gulf.

It is now the morning of day two and we are passing the Gulf of Fonseca (1400 UTC position: 12d34'N, 88d15'W) where El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all got a piece of this natural harbor. We have been sailing about half the time with a 3/4 moon at night and escorted by spotted dolphins.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Flamingos & Papagayos

Twelve years ago Marina Flamingo in Bahia Potrero was a thriving sportfishing hangout with fuel dock, bar/restaurant/resort, etc. Interlude stopped here on Kurt's delivery of her from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco Bay in 2000. It is always sad to see a place change for the worse and there is probably an interesting story why the place was shut down in 2003 by 27 armed police and taken over as a Coast Guard base.
We anchored just outside the old marina breakwater (10d26.56'N, 85d46.91'W, 30 ft) in Bahia Potrero and did not go ashore. There is still a small sportfishing fleet and a few tourist catamarans on moorings in the bay.

The new Marina Papagayo where we are now (10d38.40'N, 85d39'W, 35 ft) as part of the Peninsula Papagayo development project is ideally suited to take over for Flamingo in this part of Costa Rica. However they are not marketing to the sportfishers. In fact they are not really marketing at all and the marina is still almost empty after being open for four years. The investors appear to have deep pockets and construction of more buildings continues.

We employed two marina staff cleaners to wash the boat today ($15/hr) and tonight we are going out to dinner with our new Canadian friends at one of the restaurants at the Four Seasons (also part of the development) overlooking the Arnold Palmer golf course and the ocean.

The concierge here at the marina also helped us organize a dive trip tomorrow morning ($90pp two tanks).
We plan to be here for a few days and then use an agent to clear out:

Ernesto Conejo
Paramares S.A.
cel +506 8811 7290

The local agent for Paramares is Natalia +506 8856 5479

It is possible to rent a car from the marina or swim ashore thru the surf at Playa Del Coco and spend a day doing the paperwork with the various governmental agencies yourself but in this case we will pay the agent fee.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Underway from Tortuga

Today we got an early start on a 100 nm jump up the coast. We hoisted anchor at 0dark30 and have just rounded Cabo Blanco at 0730 heading for Bahia Potrero. Watch out for the long liners - we snagged one rounding the Cape. There are some rolley anchorages along the way but we prefer just to get to the nicer ones. For surfers this may not be the case - there are many famous surf breaks along the Costa Rica coast.

Islas Tortugas was a very pleasant three day stop. The first night's diurnal wind was the worst with the following two nights being only light from the North. The snorkeling was not very remarkable - maybe only to the numerous newbie day trippers. Some maintenance rounded out our stay with projects from the masthead (sticky anemometer) to the bottom of the keel (scrub).

We had a nice snork and walk on the beach with our new Canadian friends and plan to see them again along the way.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Islas Tortugas

Yesterday we motored about 60 nm northwest in calm conditions from Manuel Antonio Park to the Islas Torgugas on the West side of Golfo Nicoya (we spotted on 'tortuga' on the way in. We bypassed several rolly anchorages and expensive marinas to find flat water with a cool light breeze off a small beach at Isla Alcatraz (9d46.75'N, 84d53.75'W, 26 ft). This is a tourist area with day trippers going to the beach at Isa Tolinga and divers on the small islet (Turtle Rock)and rocks nearby. By 1700 they were all gone and we were left with only one Canadian cruising yacht also heading north. We bought three lobsters ($20) from some local fishermen and had a nice feast finishing off the evening with a couple episodes of West Wing on DVD.

At 0000 we awoke to a wind shift to the north piping up to 25 kn and within a short time had some two foot chop in the anchorage. The anchor reset itself well in sand after the 180 degree shift but we put on the chartplotter anchor alarm for good measure since the beach was now at our stern. If its not one thing its another - if its not swell roll its wind chop... In this case the wind chop was still better than swell roll for sleeping. The wind died back down by sunrise and is probably thermal drainage from the mainland.

Today we plan to go snorkeling on 'Turtle Rock' and get to know our new Canadian friends better. All the yachts on the Pan Pacific SSB net this morning are heading south so to find a yacht going north to Mexico with us is rare.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cano to Antonio

Diving at the Isla Cano National Marine Park was excellent. Known as 'Mini Cocos Island' only 17 miles off the coast it was to substitute for us going to the legendary Cocos Island some 300 miles further off the coast. Although we did not see any hammerhead sharks or find pirate treasure the sea life was spectacular. Permits to visit these National Parks by your own vessel are prohibitively difficult to obtain and you will be asked to leave if you arrive without one.

The panga ride out to Cano was about an hour and we had five divers, three snorkelers, driver, dive master, snork guide and a park ranger along for the ride out. There were several other pangas with divers/snorklers and we can see why they are limiting the number of visitors to 60 per day. Dives are limited to 45 minutes by regulation and you are not allowed to touch anything.

On each of our two dives we saw numerous white tip reef sharks, rays, turtles, moray eels, schools of barracudas, jacks, tuna, the usual tropical fish and even a yellow frog fish and a giant black manta ray with white stripes. There were some thermoclines with the cooler ocean water mixing with the mainland and even a little red tide causing visibility to be less than 60 ft in some places. The sharks were mostly inactive and sitting on the sandy bottom. The coral was unremarkable.

We have not seen this many fish diving since we were last in the Pacific six years ago. Its great to be back although all we seem to be catching over here is skipjack tuna - four more today (all thrown back).

Bahia Drake (named after the Sir Francis Drake who seems to have gotten everywhere) was just too rolley an anchorage for us to spend any more time in so we are now in an only slightly less rolley anchorage at Manuel Antonio National Park some 50 nm further along the coast. Named after a Spanish soldier killed by the fierce Quepos Indians on the beach here in 1519, 1700 acres were declared a Park in 1972. We are anchored tucked behind a headland off the beach where there are no tourists (9d22.97N, 84d08.90'W, 25 ft). The tourist beach is packed, has vendors and even a parasail boat. We see what look like small hotels on the hill further around the bay. Cheeky white faced capuchin monkeys are said to harass the tourists and since we have seen just about all the wildlife we wanted to see in Costa Rica we probably won't go ashore. There is supposed to be an anchoring fee and an entrance fee pp but some boats that came thru here last week could not find anyone ashore to take their

It is still very hot in the afternoons especially at anchor (95F air, 86F sea). Since we've seen quite a lot of what nature has to offer here in Costa Rica our goal now is to meet some cruisers heading north and cool off.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Drake Bay

After motoring 50 nm yesterday we are now anchored on the outside of the Oso Peninsula in Drake Bay (8d41.95'N, 83d40.04'W, 20 ft LW). Coming around Capa Matapalo at the southern tip of the peninsula we could just barely make out some of the lodge at Bosque del Cabo. Fishing was only good for skipjack of which we caught four and threw them all back. The anchorage is quite exposed the ocean swells so whe have our flopper stopper (Magma) deployed.

Here in Bahia Drake, there is another nice eco lodge, Aguila del Osa, where we meet Brad the owner who kindly arranged a dive trip to Isla Cano for us this morning ($130 pp 2 tank, incl. lunch and permits). The island, a national park, is about an hour panga ride off the coast here and not a good anchorage for us even if we could get permits. There is a new regulation theat went into effect last week limiting the number of snorklers/divers. The lodges here had no advance notice and many guests had to delay or miss their dives because of cruise ship snorklers taking up many of the slots.

Aguila's dock is just inside the river mouth in the SW corner of the bay. It is possible for yatistas to eat there with some advance notice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Go Golfito

We have been power touring the Golfo Dulce area of Costa Rica for a week now and can say that the flora and fauna viewing is spectacular. Our three day two night excursion to the Oso Peninsula was well worthwhile and the Bosque del Cabo ‘eco lodge’ was a fantastic place to stay. Leaving Interlude at anchor in Golfito, we took a 0730 ‘local’ ferry ride across the Golfo Dulce and were greeted by the lodge driver for a bumpy one hour jeep ride along a rough gravel road that crossed three rivers. We saw and learned much more on guided walks that we did on our own and the accommodations and meals were very nice. We saw all four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica (spider, howler, white faced, and squirrel) right on the lodge property as well as three toed sloths and dozens of bird species including scarlet macaws and toucans. Insects, spiders, bats, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads were all identified and their importance to the local ecosystem explained. A canopy tour by zip line with 100 foot rappel to the forest floor was quite an exciting way to view the area. Started from humble beginnings as a surf camp by Phil, a young American surfer 23 years ago, the lodge is now an amazing property on over 750 acres of rainforest reserve.

A day excursion by hired boat took us to the Santuario Silvestre de Osa wildlife sanctuary (8d40.56’N, 83d19.48’W) and the Casa Orchidea botanical garden (8d39.45’N, 83d16.01’W). Although we could have taken Interlude and anchored off these locations it was faster and easier by panga.

The refuge was started in 1996 by Americans when injured wildlife and abandoned exotic pets began to outnumber the guests at their eco lodge. The foundation has around 90 animals is various stages of rehabilitation and has release over 300 back into the wild (adjacent Piedras Blancas National Park). Carol, our tour guide and founder of the sanctuary showed us the animals unable to be released including sloths, kinkajous (raccoon family), collared peccaries (similar to pigs), white faced capuchin monkeys, toucans, a tayra (weasel family), and a scarlet macaw. Carol greeted us with Sweetie, a female spider monkey who demanded the guests groom her in more of a dominance behavior than a physical necessity. She was the lowest in her troop’s pecking order and enjoyed being queen of the humans.

The Casa Orchidea, began when Ron and Trudy (+506-8829-1247) moved to Costa Rica in 1974. While trying to grow fruits for the local market they discovered their unique beach location was conducive to growing numerous indigenous coastal orchids and they started what is now a well established and maintained botanical garden. In addition to the unique plants we also saw two toucans about 6 feet above our heads resting in a palm tree.

Hiring a Land Rover and driver (chris.castellanos@gmail.com +506-8348-5158) for a day our first stop was a visit with Robert Beatham to tour his botanical gardens. Robert came down to Costa Rica in the 1950’s working for what is now Chiquita Banana and for the last 20 years has been growing palm oil that is processed and exported. He had quite an in depth knowledge of the medicinal properties of tropical plants and although in his 80’s looked and had the retention of someone 30 years younger. He is a bit of a free spirit having adopted and raised many local children that refer to him as ‘grandfather’. At the time of our visit he had about five rescue dogs and a pregnant German woman with her 7 month old baby living with him.

An hour further up the hills into coffee country we stopped for a self guided tour at the Wilson Botanical Gardens. Located at 3,900 feet the cool mountain air in the 70’s was a nice change from the 90 degree temperatures in Golfito. After a further 15 minute drive we had lunch at Lillianas, an Italian restaurant in the town of San Vito. Our diver explained that many Europeans resettled in Costa Rica after WWII paving the way for the current wave of expats in the 1970’s-present. However, this influx has pushed up property prices and a typical 1,500 square foot house now costs $80,000 in the Golfito region with mortgage rates in the upper teens making housing affordability difficult for the locals. With the cost of diesel at $4.60 a gallon the only real bargain left is the locally grown fruits and vegetables that taste organic and cost about one fifth of what we pay in the States. The latest big wave of foreign money coincided with Golfito being a stop for yacht carriers, including Dockwise, that can transport dozens of sport fishing boats here that previously would have had difficulty making it here on their own bottom. Currently there are fifteen million dollar sport fishing boats paying $200 to $300 a night for a berth ashore and burn up to 200 gallons of diesel an hour. With locals that make only a few hundred dollars a month completing for resources with owners of unlimited budgets we have been told that opportunistic theft is not uncommon and we keep Interlude’s decks free of loose gear and lock ourselves in every night. Additionally we hired a ‘boat sitter’ (Chama, +506-8834-8422) to stay aboard at night when we visited Bosque Del Cabo. However, we have found most of the locals to be friendly, happy and industrious.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coasting in to Costa Rica

We arrived Golfito, Costa Rica at dawn today and anchored off the Banana Bay Marina (8d37.30'N, 83d09.24'W, 30 ft). Our yacht agent (Bruce +506 2775 0838 info@bananabaymarina.com ) checked us in and drove us around to get a sim card for the old Nokia (+506 8694 8765 if you need to call us).

There are two viable marinas here: Banana Bay and Fish Hook. Land & Sea (Tierra Mar) is a helpful place to land your dinghy ($5/day) if you are anchored out like us. Or jst patronize the marina restaurant/bars and they will let you tie upf or a few hours. Locked wifi is available ask at the bars or Land & Sea ($1/day)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Underway Day 2

We are having a fairly easy passage (so far) with mostly light winds except for a few hours near Punta Mala where it piped up to 20-25 kn on the beam. We have been motoring on and off and are now under power with 8 kn of wind on the nose.

1500 Local Position: 7d20'N, 82d03'W, (approaching tiny Isla Montuosa, Panama) course 300 M, speed 8.3 kn.

Ship traffic has been moderate but we have stayed inside the shipping lanes. Only the National Geographic MV 'Sea Lion' is skirting the coast.

Kurt checked in to a couple amateur radio nets including the Caentral American Breakfast Club (1300 UTC, 7083 LSB) and the 24 hr Maritime Mobile Ham frequency 14300 USB where we heard net control in Misssouri and the station he was talking with in Florida. The SSB Amigo net (1400 UTC, 8122 USB) in Mexico was still very light copy and the Pan-Pacific Net (1400 UTC, 8143 USB) was not readable today.

We still have about 110 nm to go and so should arrive in Golfito, Costa Rica early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. The NMG weather FAXs out of New Orleans show a gale blowing in the Caribbean where we just left. Maybe that's why they call them the San Blas (Sand Blast) Islands :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Underway Day 1

We hoisted anchor at 0730 this morning, crossed the busy ship channel leading to the Canal and motored thru the ship anchorage before setting sail at 0900. The wind has been moderately light all day from the north allowing us to sail wing and wing toward Punta Mala. Most ships are also coming from or going to Punta Mala which we will be rounding in the dark. This is the easy direction with wind and current in our favor. It can be a nasty trip going to the Canal hence the name Punta 'Mala'.

1500 local Position: 8d02'N, 79d44'W, course 193 M, speed 8 kn.

It has been a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky but the barometer has been falling quite steadily. Time to get some weather email...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pacific Panama!

Friday we departed Shelter Bay Marina and transited three locks of the Panama Canal up to Gatun Lake where Interlude anchored for the night (9d15.57'N, 79d54.94'W, 50 ft). Yachts under 125 ft are no longer allowed to transit all the way thru in one day. Our pilot came aboard where we were stationed in the 'Foxtrot' anchorage AKA 'The Flats' at 1645 local and we transited after dark in the well lit canal anchoring at 2020. There was some finagling to allow us to go center chamber and not be rafted with other boats but our Pilot managed to arrange it. We were going to be side tied to an ACP tug but the tug only had one mooring line tying it to the wall and would not take us. So at the last minute on our first lock we had to tie to the wall ourselves behind the tug. There were no Canal workers on the other side wall to take our lines to hold us center chamber. The wall is nasty concrete and there was tremendous turbulence as the lake water filled the lock to raise the ships. We
managed to avoid any damage but it was not pretty. They did have some guys for us so we could go center chamber for the next two locks.

On Saturday our new pilot came aboard at 0800 (1 hr late) and we motored across Gatun Lake at 10 kn to make our 1045 time slot at the Pedro Miguel lock. We had a nice ride down to sea level in all three locks tied center chamber with only two other small vessels in the locks with us. We were thru by 1240 and the pilot was picked up shortly thereafter. Dropping off our crew and 12 supplemental tire fenders was easy at the Balboa Yacht Club using their water taxi (VHF 6 with a phone call ahead by our agent Tina McBride). Our line handler crew was a couple from another yacht in the marina, a 15 year old cruiser kid who had been thru the canal twice already and a 30 year old Estonian traveler with sailing experience in the med who has been driving his car all thru the Americas and now wants to crew on a yacht going across the Pacific. Having a yacht savvy crew as opposed to professional line handlers may have saved our new paint job.

Breaking up the transit into two days is not really a bad thing. The break on the Lake was welcome and being thru by midday gave us time to find a good spot to anchor and clean up. We are now anchored at the entrance to the Canal at La Playita de Amador (8d54.47'N, 79d31.49'W, 30 ft). The tides on this side can be over 20 ft (compared to 3 ft on the Atlantic side) so we have to be careful.

We already have our clearance papers so Costa Rica here we come!